Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome: Speaking with Nathan Olsen

This is such a rare syndrome.  The more that we vocalize about it, the more people become aware of it.  We are always looking for ways to spread awareness.

Nathan Olsen, speaking about TTTS.

The Charity Boardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Nate: Hey Chris,  Thanks for taking the time to interview me.  I am 34 year old Father of 4 kids (Cynthia, Ezekiel, Ezra and Elloise).  I have been married to my wonderful wife for 9, going on 10 years. I currently manage a local gym that has recently just opened.  I get the opportunity to personal train and teach classes to our local community.
I got into gaming through a couple of friends.  We would do game night every couple weeks.  We started with Catan, then I proceeded to purchase Lords Of Waterdeep.  After that we moved back to my home state where gaming took a bit of a back seat. Summer of 2018 we took the plunge in the hobby.  
Around March we started Sons Of Thunder Games as an outlet to take photos of various kinds.  We take thematic, in game, and also sometimes do reviews.  We love it.  We love being able to interact with the community.

The Charity Boardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Nate: There have been a couple of games.  Gloomhaven- We have finally formed a solid enough group to meet once a week.  The card management is so intense.  We love it.  Underwater Cities-  This one has been one of the best games we have played this year.  It’s simple in mechanics yet tough with decision making.  Cannot recommend enough. Res Arcana- My favorite game from 2019.  Such a tight engine building game.

The Charity Boardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Nate: Stonemaier Games.  They produce beautiful games, but also games that are super accessible to new gamers.

The Charity Boardgamer: Tell me about TTTS. What does it stand for?

Nate: “Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is the result of an intrauterine blood transfusion from one twin (donor) to another twin (recipient). TTTS only occurs in monozygotic (identical) twins with a monochorionic placenta. The donor twin is often smaller with a birth weight 20% less than the recipient’s birth weight”

TTTS affects 5-15 percent of identical twin pregnancies. So it’s a pretty rare complication to have/hear about.

The Charity Boardgamer: Why is this TTTS Team important to you?

Nate: TTTS team is important to me in many ways.  In 2013 we found out we had Identical Twins.  Around 16 weeks they were diagnosed with TTTS.  The boys were in stage 3. We then went to the University of Michigan where they mapped the placenta and did laser ablation on the blood vessels connecting the boys.  The recipient baby (Hezekiah) passed away from Heart Failure. 
This is such a rare syndrome.  The more that we vocalize about it, the more people become aware of it.  We are always looking for ways to spread awareness.

The Charity Boardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the organization?

Nate: Well, I think supporting this organization will also help to support the parents who have been affected by this.  It’s a pretty hard thing to deal with.  The anniversary of Hezekiah passing is March 7th, so around this time of the year we always reflect on Ezekiel & Hezekiah. Because of TTTS Ezekiel has Sensory Processing Disorder.  So it’s always going to be something that we deal with. 

The Charity Boardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about TTTS?

Nate: Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) | UCSF Fetal Treatment Center

Interview with Sarah Trager

Sarah and Nic Trager at Tantrum Con 2019

“I am humbled and convicted when I consider my extreme blessings, especially in the face of such poverty.” 

Sarah Trager, Tournament Director at Double Exposure

Sarah Trager and I spoke with each other about the hobby and Compassion International on September 3rd, 2019.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Tell us about yourself and what brought you into the board game hobby.

Sarah: Hi, Chris! Thanks for having me. I love board and card games and have since childhood. Growing up we played the classics – Monopoly, Sorry, Trouble and Clue. One of my favorite parts of my board games origin story is this: my dad was in the military until I was sixteen. He was away a lot but sent lots of letters and little gifts while he was gone. He used to record himself reading my favorite books, or just talking to us, and send us the tapes to listen to. He once sent me a game of Trouble, and promised we’d play when he got home. So my love of games started as a kid, and it grew as I did. My first semester of college a friend taught me how to play Settlers of Catan and I was instantly in love. It’s still my all-time favorite game.

TheCharityBoardGamer: How long have you been in the hobby?

Sarah: The hobby – about twelve years I guess. I’ve been in the industry for about four.

Sarah teaching members of a Sunday night game group.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What do you do in the industry?

Sarah: I am the Tournament Director at Double Exposure, which is a North American-wide company which helps game designers and publishers create, market, and support their games.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What is your favorite game currently?

Sarah: Settlers of Catan is my always, all-time favorite. Recently, I’ve been enjoying Clank!, Space Park, and Raccoon Tycoon.

Enjoying an afternoon playing Splendor.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Any particular designer or publisher that you enjoy the most?

Sarah: John Clair (Mystic Vale, Space Base…) puts out consistently solid work that I enjoy. Gil Hova is brilliant. My husband has started to design games and I am not only immensely proud of him, but also genuinely enjoying his creations.

TheCharityBoardGamer: So tell me about Compassion International. What is it and what do they do?

Sarah: Compassion is an international program that helps kids around the world who suffer from extreme poverty. They help by providing food, clothing, medical care, schooling, professional training, emergency/disaster relief and much more. I’ve been a part of it for the last thirteen years.

Rehma, age four. Sponsored by Sarah through Compassion International

Sarah: I “adopted” a kid – Isaac. I found out about the program in college. A representative came and shared pictures and stories of the children and families and communities that the program touched. I didn’t have a lot of money but knew that I wanted to be Jesus’s hands and feet to one of those kids. I signed up and never looked back. Isaac grew up and moved outside of the range of the program in his country, so I was assigned another child. I have been blessed to know four different kids throughout my time in the program so far.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Have you done any special activities or helped the charity in a certain way?

Sarah: Not directly. Sponsors can go on trips to meet their kids, but they are expensive and I’ve always felt the money could be better used in a different way. One of the things that I hope had a big impact (I won’t actually know this side of heaven) is that, when working for AEG (the publisher behind games like Point Salad, Mystic Vale, and Space Base), I was asked about my favorite charity because AEG makes monthly donations to different charities – and I recommended Compassion International. They went ahead and chose to support Compassion and I hope that made a huge impact. 

A more direct way I have been able to be impactful is in the individual lives of the children I have sponsored and continue to sponsor. Compassion encourages sponsors to develop relationships with their kids by exchanging letters, cards and photos. I have been so blessed by these relationships over the years and am so thankful for the different perspectives on life and faith the kids have shared with me.     

This is Raul, age ten from Brazil, also sponsored through Compassion International

Sarah: Sponsors can choose to send additional money for their child’s birthday and/or Christmas. This money goes directly to the child and their family…I have received photos of my kids surrounded by all the clothing, food and special gifts. It makes me cry every time. At first I was sad that the money wasn’t used to support my American-style idea of Christmas or birthday – cake and toys. The kids and their families use the money to buy food, clothing and shoes. I am humbled and convicted when I consider my extreme blessings, especially in the face of such poverty.  Sponsors can also send extra support for specific needs of a community. Compassion offers a catalog of items that people, sponsors or not, can purchase for communities all over the world. The items range from soccer balls and Bibles to livestock, lifesaving medical equipment, and wells which provide clean water to whole villages.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, If someone wanted to hear more or find out more information about Compassion International, where could they go?


TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, thank you for sharing your time with us today. I appreciate you as a friend and as part of the board game family.

Sarah: Likewise. Thanks for highlighting Compassion International!